LF is it really better?

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Editor's warning: decide for yourself whether to take this thread seriously or not. email sent to jona@microsoft.com has returned "Unknown Recipient".

Yesterday my dad took me into the city. We went to one of the local photo stores so I could buy some 4x5 film. The guy behind the counter told me that LF photography is dead and I can do everything I want better with 35mm and super small grain film like APX25. Is this true?

I think maybe I made a mistake buying a 4x5 camera.

Thanks Jonny

-- Jon Abernathy (jona@microsoft.com), July 01, 2000


Sounds to me like the guy behind the counter is dead.

-- Jim B. (jimzpace@yahoo.com), July 01, 2000.

Jon, Large format is certainly not dead, and my feeling has long been that anyone who seriously wants to learn photography, not just the technique, but also the "seeing", should start out with large format. I feel that you are choosing the best path available in the quest to becoming an accomplished photographer.


-- fred (fdeaton@hiwaay.net), July 01, 2000.

sounds like a troll..........

Sorry, but I just don't see how anyone could make an investment in LF, and even consider for one second the CRAP that salesman said.

-- sheldon hambrick (sheldon_hambrick@hotmail.com), July 01, 2000.

Jon: yes, you did make a mistake: Assuming that working behind a counter at photo store is accredits that individual as a knowledgeable photographic artist. To further reassure youself, spend some time at a library to see the kind of images that LF photographers make and then see if that kind of imagery can be found in books by 35 mm photographers. The images from such as David Muench, Jack Dykinga, Eliot Porter and many other LF photographers, can't be made with 35mm. Those people know that, even if your guy at the store does't. 35mm is indeed a great medium for other things, but if you are intent on "making" pictures rather than "taking" pictures, LF is your one and only medium.

-- Julio Fernandez (gluemax@ora.auracom.com), July 01, 2000.

Wow, thanks for all the answers. I like my camera but the photo man made me feel bad. My dad thinks that I waste money but I just love taking pictures. I thought that this man was right cause he sells film and cameras. When school starts again I will go the library and look up the people that was mentioned.

Someday, maybe I will have pictures in the library.

Your friend Jonny

-- Jonny Abernathy (jona@microsoft.com), July 01, 2000.

Johnny, that was a real bad man at the photo store and if I were you I'd go tell him to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. He was a real bad man. But I think you made a big mistake too. You should shoot only 35mm so that you won't feel so bad next time some idiot tells you something like this. LF is for real men and not little boys that get their feelings hurt so easily. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), July 01, 2000.

Hey, I got the same 'advice' from several places. But just one question, if LF is dead, then how come Schneider, Rodenstock et al keep making lenses, how come film is avaliable in 'proper' photographic shops, quite clearly the fellow you talked to was more interested in selling 35mm, next time they say this take care to point out that most, if not all major product photography is done with LF equipment either onto film or high-end scanning backs. By the way, did you know that no-one ever uses 120 or 220 film any more as you can't processit anymore. (Or atleast that's what the buggers at a certain lab say - Klick photopoint in the UK do not go near them with a f***in' barge pole).

-- David Kirk (David_J_Kirk@hotmail.com), July 01, 2000.

Johnny, it seems to me that this guy has no idea what he's talking about. If it makes you feel any better, I sell cameras and film on a daily basis, have yet to sell a medium or large format camera (stupid P&S and digital cameras...grumble...), and can still say that LF is not even close to being dead. If you feel like proving to yourself (or your dad, for that matter)that LF really is better in quality than 35mm, shoot the same scene with both 35mm and 4x5, getting the two shots as similar as possible. Once the film is processed, get both negatives blown up to 8x10 or 11x14 and compare the final product. The LF shot will look better- guaranteed. Good luck.

Just a thought...

-- Dave Munson (orthoptera@juno.com), July 01, 2000.

Well, it is true that you can make great enlargements from 35mm or 120 negs. if you are makeing prints 8x10 to 11x14, careful work will give excellent results. The real reason to use large format is that it gives total control over your work. Swings and tilts give you control over perspective and focus, individual negatives allow exact control of the processing of each one. If these things are important to you, you need to use large format. If not, use something else.

-- Bill Moore (wmoore@provide.net), July 01, 2000.

Jon, don't get suckered into the religious war over 35mm/medium format/large-format cameras. Use what suits you best. After shooting 35mm for 20 years, and LF for about 18 months, I've come to see that the mind behind the camera and the technique used contributes more to the finished product than the choice of camera format. I love my LF camera far more than my 35mm simply for the control that it gives me. If I'm shooting wildlife, I wouldn't even think about using the LF gear. I shoot mostly rocks, trees, and streams, so I use the LF gear.

As for impressing your father with LF vs. 35mm, LF gear takes a lot of practice and patience, both good things to learn for life. I've got maybe 100 transparencies so far, and maybe 4 or 5 absolutely breathtaking shots that make it all worth it to me. Just because you use LF gear doesn't make things automaticaly come out better (just more expensive!). Keep trying and good luck!

-- Ray Dunn (raydunn@mcn.net), July 01, 2000.

Abernathy, change photo store, the guy behind the counter has a SUPER SMALL BRAIN.

-- Sergio Caetano (thgardin@uol.com.br), July 01, 2000.

Hi Jon, I have two amateurish pictures from 4x5 slides posted at www.photocritique.net under nature, 'A 4x5 shot'&'another 4x5', hope that won't kill your appetitefor LF. They are scanned from Ilfochrome contact prints as I can't afford a good scanner for LF slides. The actual slides look better.

-- Aaron Rocky (ar7786@hotmail.com), July 01, 2000.


I have been shooting 35mm for the past 30 years, Meium Format for the past 5, and Large Format of the past 1 year. I wish I had started shooting LF when I was your age. I am so in love with my LF camera that I often think about selling my 2-1/4 camera. Each has it's own use and each it's own technique. What I love about LF is being able to slow down, think, react, compose, think again and "make a photograph". There are many disappointing images, a lot can go wrong, but when it goes right and everything comes together....WOW! That is when you know that it is worth every painstaking mistake that you have made.

My best, Mike

-- Michael J. Kravit (mkravit@mindspring.com), July 01, 2000.

Take a look at the article entitled "35mm, medium format, or large format?" at http://www.photodo.com/nav/artindex.html . Look at the numbered T-Max 100 shots at the end of the article, namely #4 (35mm, Zeiss 50/1.4 at f5.6), #5 (6x6, Zeiss 80/2.8 at f11), #6 (4x5, Rodenstock sironar 150/5.6 at f22...I don't think it was the latest apo version, either). The conclusion is that the resolution from all three shots is close, but they fail to mention anything about the grain. A novice would probably say that #6 is the "sharpest," yet it's really the reduced grain, not the resolution, that makes it appear sharper.

-- James Chow (drjchow@earthlink.net), July 02, 2000.

The comment does not surprise me. I had a very bad time getting started in photography becaus of this type of attitude on the part of some retailers. Forge ahead and don't listen to negative comments (no pun intended). If you can avoid it dont do any future buisness with this place, part of their job is to encourage young photographers if they want to stay in buisness. Good luck and happy shooting. Steve

-- Steve Roche (stevemr@earthlink.net), July 02, 2000.

Jonny: You did make a mistake...It was going into the camera store and talking to that idiot. 35mm has a place in photography, but that place is not in making large, high quality prints. The modern 35mm lenses are sharp as a tack, sharper in most cases than lenses for 4x5, but sharpness is not the criteria. Grain has some bearing on larger prints, but the great advantage to 4x5 or larger negs is the room on the negative to get the smoothness of tones and the great detail. There simply is not room on the 35mm neg for all the tones and fine lines to be recorded. Camera movements are very important in controlling shape of objects, zone of focus, etc. You are on the right track to making some of the best images you will ever make with 4x5. Learn to use it and you will be happy for most of your photographic career. As for large format being dead, BS.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), July 02, 2000.

You know, my 4x5 Graflex was spec'd for Navy use as a coconut cracker. So when the guy behind the counter puts the APS in front of me, I stick it on my rails and close. If he tells me LF is dead, I'd hit him with it. I buddy of mine hit a clerk with a Linhoff -- now who's dead? Dean

-- Dean Lastoria (dvlastor@sfu.ca), July 05, 2000.

Jon, I agree with all the opinions above. Don't listen to any comments similar to that idiot store clerk. All formats have it's own place and use even the point&shoot, APS and digital. Using arguments favoring one format to dowwn play the another one is a no-no. When I switch from 35mm to medium to LF, each time I though that I would sell the smaller one and so on. Right now, I still have all the gears for 3 formats. It's up to YOU to decide when to use which one in reference of shooting conditions and final output. Good luck and stick to your LF. (btw, show this thread to you father, He will understand)

-- dan nguyen (dan@egmail.com), July 05, 2000.

Jonny, the guy behind the counter was really trying to tell you that he is incompetent when it comes to servicing large format customers because they know far more about photography than he does. He wants ignorant customers with credit cards who will swallow whatever rediculous line he spouts to sell a camera. The only mistake you made was in listening to the guy. There are lots of them around... boobs with autofocus cameras and zoom lenses, and of course they are always "experts." Perhaps that explains the rapid decline in the quality of photography we see these days even though the optics and film are constantly improving.

-- Randy Shafer (heavysteam@aol.com), July 10, 2000.

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